Frequently asked questions
What is Project Ara?
Project Ara is a development effort to create a modular hardware ecosystem--rivaling mobile apps in the pace and level of innovation--around smartphones, with the goal of delivering the mobile internet to the next 5 billion people. Put another way, Project Ara aims to enable users to create a modular smartphone that is precisely tailored to their functional and aesthetic preferences.
It all starts with an endoskeleton, or “endo,” the structural frame and data backbone of the device. The user can populate the endo with “modules,” the building blocks that make up the vast majority of the phone’s functionality and features. The modules can be easily and safely inserted and removed at any time, even while the device is powered on. The modules also have user-replaceable covers or “shells,” which provide a creative canvas for users to make their phone look exactly as they wish. Ultimately, customers will be able to buy a complete Ara phone, configure one from scratch, or buy additional modules through the Ara Module Marketplace.
Is Ara a Nexus phone?
No, Project Ara devices will run the Android operating system, however, today, the program is still very much a development effort and is not an official Android or Nexus product.
When will an Ara device be available for purchase and how much will it cost?
Project Ara is a development effort, not an official Google product. Consequently, we don’t have a market launch date. However, we’re working towards a limited market pilot in 2015.
As for pricing, it’s much too early to tell. We have set engineering and manufacturing goals for the bill-of-materials cost of a basic, entry-level Ara device to be in the $50-100 range. It’s important to note that this is just the cost of the components and says nothing about how it will be priced--it could be more or less than that (e.g., with a carrier contract). In the end, we expect that module developers will be able to set the prices for their modules sold in the Ara Module Marketplace, much like mobile app developers do in app stores today.
What makes Project Ara different from other mobile devices? Why would I want a modular phone?
With a modular platform, you can pick the camera you want for your phone rather than picking your phone for the camera. You could have a sensor to test if water is clean. You could have a battery that lasts for days. A really awesome speaker. A gamer phone. Or it could even be your car key. The possibilities are limitless.
You can upgrade different parts of your phone when you need too. Replace a broken display. Save up for a high-end camera. Share a module with your family, or swap one with your friends. Now you don’t have to throw your phone away every few years.
What else… Want your cat on your phone? Get a custom shell. Cat’s got kittens? No problem, add those images too. Are you a sports nut? Get your favorite team’s logo on your phone.
In short, Ara lets you make thoughtful choices and tell your story through your device.
Why is it called Project Ara?
As it turns out, our lead mechanical designer is named Ara. And we like him. And we also like his name. So we named the phone Ara. We hope you like it too.
Is the phone 3D printed?
While we think it’d be pretty cool to 3D print electronics--and we’re working on some first steps in that direction--we can’t do that just yet. We did look at 3D printing module shells, and have been working on a production 3D printing system capable of putting out high-quality, consumer-grade materials. However, in the near term we are making the module shells out of injection-molded polycarbonate plastic and using a technology called dye sublimation to create the full-color, high-resolution image of your cat... or whatever else suits your fancy.
What is the relationship between Project Ara and Phonebloks?
Many of you remember the really cool Phonebloks video last Fall. It was created by Dave Hakkens, a talented designer in the Netherlands. When we saw the video we decided to partner with Dave, since his idea was similar in concept to what we were working on in Project Ara. Dave runs the Phonebloks community which encourages the industry to reduce electronic waste. He also joins us, on occasion, to get sneak peeks at the Ara development team and prototypes, and makes awesome YouTube videos documenting our progress.
Me/my company is interested in developing a module, how do we get started?
Please visit projectara.com/mdk to download the Module Developers Kit (MDK). The MDK defines the Ara platform for module developers and provides reference implementations for a variety of modules that we’ve prototyped to help you get started. You may also wish to apply for developer hardware to make creating an Ara module easier. We also have occasional developers conferences which are a great venue for getting a walk-through of the MDK, understand where the Ara platform is going, ask questions, and find partners.